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If You Have To Print, At Least Print Smart

PrintEco is a new plug-in that optimizes documents for printing so that they use the least amount of paper. How much can you save? Way more than you think.

If You Have To Print, At Least Print Smart
iofoto/Shutterstock

You’ve probably experienced it: You print out an article from the web and, because it’s littered with ads, images, and blank space, it takes up four pages instead of two.

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Arpan Shah noticed the same problem when he spent a summer interning at a large health-care corporation. “I saw the immense amount of wasteful printing first-hand,” he says. When he returned to the University of Illinois in 2009 for his junior year, it was the same story in the computer lab. “The waste bins would be full of discarded sheets of paper.”

So that fall, Shah entered a business plan competition, recruited some friends, and ended up founding PrintEco. After about a year of product development, PrintEco rolled out its solution: plug-ins for Microsoft Office, Internet Explorer, and Firefox that clean up sloppy formatting so the documents you print don’t waste paper.

If you’re printing an article for the web, for example, PrintEco might strip out ads and images, get rid of whitespace, and delete leftover links. You can then choose to print the cleaned-up version or revert to the original. PrintEco also works on spreadsheets, which often have one or two cells stranded on a page by themselves. As you use it, PrintEco keeps track of how many pages–and tons of CO2–you’ve saved.

According to a 2006 study from Lexmark, waste accounts for about 17% of all printed pages. A lot of that, presumably, is due to bad formatting. Reducing that waste is good for the environment, but it also saves money. Paper isn’t free, and the prices for ink cartridges, if you haven’t noticed, are outrageous.

According to Shah, the small businesses that already have PrintEco are saving about $10 to $15 per year for every user. In a large company with tens of thousands of employees, that could add up to real money. Pitching the software to Fortune 500 companies is Shah’s plan, in fact. “I think the financial services industry can really benefit here due to a lot of printing of spreadsheets,” he says. Maybe he’ll be able to help Goldman Sachs do some good.